Sweet Potato Project Video/Photo Journal

We have Sweet Potatoes! Now what?

On Saturday, Oct. 13th, administrators and the Sweet Potato Project youth under the guidance of horticulturist, Karen Davis, with Lincoln University’s Urban Impact Center, harvested our sweet potato crop. It was gratifying for the youth to see their hard work pay off after five months.

What’s next?
What makes the Sweet Potato Project unique is the fact that it aims to show “at-risk” kids in low-income communities that they have opportunities to generate money in their own neighborhoods without succumbing to the lure of the illegal drug trade. We made a promise to the youth that we would turn the produce they planted into a product they can sell. They have chosen a pancake mix made out of sweet potatoes that they can sell to churches, civic groups, businesses and other supportive individuals.

This is where you come in. Surely there are those out there with access to major  manufacturers or food producers who can help us process and package this product. Imagine the impact we will have on the youth in our program and their parents and neighbors to have an actual product grown and distributed from low-income communities. As we’ve often said, this pilot program is a seed, a seed that, with your involvement, can grow into a real economic boon for communities in dire need of self-sustaining jobs and small businesses.

NACDC’s board plans to start classes once per week where the youth will be trained to sell their products. It is our sincere desire to have their product ready for distribution during the holidays and on through February 2013.

With your help, we can not only inspire our youth, we can empower long-neglected communities.




Take a Listen: The Sweet Potato Project Theme song written, recorded and produced by the Sweet Potato Project Youth:



An all-hands-on-deck call out!
This is the final week of the Sweet Potato Project’s summer session and we want to end it with a bang. With professional help, the youth will build and launch their own website. They will also create a SPP jingle and engage in an exciting and fun competition based on the popular TV show “The Apprentice.”

Sweet Potato Project Website

Sweet Potato Project Jingle

The Urban Apprentice Competition

End of session car wash (tba)

The program will continue after school starts with weekend sessions for the 2012 Class. The major focus will be on developing the product they have created. While we’re working with partners to produce the product in quantities, we will continue training the youth to make individual, group and Internet sales.

However, we have much work to do in the next few days and we need your help. Below are the specific donations of items, personal time and services needed. Please join us as we make the final week one that will challenge and inspire these young people to live up to their potential and become change agents in their own communities.


Donated items needed for Urban Apprentice Competition

No youth will hear “you’re fired” but like the popular TV show-youth teams will compete to sell donated items within four hours on Thursday, August 9th. We’re asking individuals to donate a purchased item(s) that the youth can sell. They can range from candy to other packaged goods. Donations will be equally distributed among the teams who will compete for the “Urban Apprentice” title.
Items can be dropped off with SPP representatives at the Julia Davis Library at 4415 Natural Bridge Avenue at Newstead from 9am to 12pm. Please call 314-602-5212 or email whenwedreamtogether@gmail.com if you need items picked up.


Drivers are needed to take youth to South County Mall from 9am-11am to record their SPP jingle. We will also need drivers on Thursday to accompany youth teams as they sell their products for the Urban Apprentice competition.

SATURDAY 9am-Noon: Sweet Potato Project Community Car wash

Come out and meet the SPP youth during the community car wash fund-raiser. Location to be announced.

Email whenwedreamtogether@gmail.com for personal E-vite

A video/photo essay of the 8-week summer program

WEEK SIX: July 23th-July 26th

Karen Davis, horticulturist with Lincoln University-St. Louis Urban Impact Center, talks with SPP youth about their produce and expected harvest

Instructor, Mimsy Hebron, has students create a sweet potato project quilt that they will display around town

Jamaican-born motivational speaker, Richard Cross, explains how his young life of poverty prepared him for great success

Richard Cross speaks on success despite of overwhelming odds

Motivational speaker, Raqib Muhammad, conducts an intense session where youth share their personal challenges

Benjamin Ghandi-Shepard helps SPP youth design their website

WEEK FIVE: July 16th-July 19th

SPP youth at Local Harvest Cafe & catering, tasting sweet potato recipes

Harvest Cafe & Catering owners, Maddie and Chef Clara, give the youth advice on running a restaurant

Nicole Adewale of ABNA Engineering and member of Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority talks about leadership & careers

Chuck Alphin, trainer/consultant in conflict management and nonviolence

WEEK FOUR: July 9th-July 12th

Ben Gandhi-Shepard introduces the students to professional photography

Motivational speaker, Raqib Muhammad, shares slides in his discussion on world poverty and the power of change

Radio executive, Baqi Cherry, shares marketing and advertising information

LaWanda Jones and Nicole Adewale of ABNA Engineering lecture on careers and leadership skills

WEEK THREE: July 2nd-July 6th

Some of the SPP youth were very shy and hesitant to speak publicly. One of first exercises was a dramatic reading from a library book of their choice. The following week, the students interviewed one another and made presentation.

Marquita delivers her report on Derron

Keith listens as Darryeon tells his story

Darryeon confesses that one of the reasons he joined the program was to overcome his shyness

WEEK TWO: June 25th-June 28th

WEEK ONE: June 18th-June 21

“Hood Walk” photo by Sweet Potato Project student, Ella Stewart


To date, the Sweet Potato project has been funded by the donations of concerned and committed individuals. We will receive some nonprofit funding in coming months but the program is in need of immediate operational funds. The young people are active, engaged and showing up on time ready to learn while they earn. This community-based effort is in need of community embrace. Please CLICK HERE and make a donation TODAY.


“My” Sweet Potato Kids

by Sylvester Brown, Jr.

“Good morning, Mr. Brown.”

Every day, sizzling hot or not, 15 young people wait for me outside the Julie Davis Branch Library. Some come from the neighborhood or other parts of the city or county. A few have walked, others ride the bus or their parents have dropped them off. A few straggle in late.

These are the youth of the Sweet Potato Project, a summer program I’ve launched with the North Area Community Development Corporation. Our goal is to teach kids entrepreneurial skills they can use today in their own neighborhoods. We’ve planted sweet potatoes on a vacant lot in North St. Louis. The kids receive a bi-weekly stipend with the idea that they will create their own sweet potato-based product; learn marketing, branding, website design, teamwork and other necessary skills so they can sell their product to churches, secular groups and supportive consumers.

My Sweet Potato kids are a challenging bunch. They all have unhealthy addictions to their cell phones and act as if you’ve insulted their mothers when told to turn them off. Some have that rock-headed, talk-back, eye-rolling attitude, with healthy doses of cocky belligerence. Scars of fatherless homes, poverty and hard living are etched on a few young faces and speak to their sometimes disruptive behavior. Yet, behind the façade of street-smart bravado, I’ve scoped something out about these kids. They are brilliant.

The thought that these young people and so many like them will become statistics of crime, teen-pregnancy and incarceration stabs at my heart. How many are dismissed, demeaned or denied simply because we didn’t take the time to look beyond unsettling veneers? How many could be turned around, saved and inspired to greatness with a little concentrated attention?

Let me tell you about my Sweet Potato kids:



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